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By Sanlam Personal Finance, 1 July 2015
Judante Building Solutions evolved out of a business run for 17 years by the siblings’ parents, James and Lorna Thomson. From a very early age, Justin, Dane and Tenille knew they wanted to follow in their parents’ footsteps, and shared a vision of being partners to establish a building contracting brand that would leave a legacy and stand the test of time.
“We even completed our tertiary education in directions we knew we would use in our business – Tenille became a quantity surveyor, Justin studied for a National Diploma in Building and I acquired a BComm in Marketing,” says Dane.
When their parents’ business – which began from humble beginnings out of the family garage – ran into financial difficulties in the years following the 2008 global economic recession, the threesome decided it was time to put their plans into action. “It was like a phoenix rising from the ashes – we took over 18 staff members from the previous business, bought our own vehicles and established our own operating infrastructure, and formally started trading in October 2012,” he says.
Having grown up in an entrepreneurial household and assisting their parents in the family business, the trio was well-positioned for their new venture to be successful. “We had the advantage of being able to learn from a young age what it means to be a business owner. We had a shared vision, and we knew we could get there. Many of our plans seemed a bit overwhelming, though, and we weren’t sure what we needed to focus on first,” says Justin.
In June last year, Judante Building Solutions was chosen to participate in the Sanlam-ASISA Enterprise Development (ED) Programme – a development which, for this young business, was “an incredible opportunity,” says Dane, “I called the rest of the family, and our mother burst into tears of joy. Our parents were so happy that we would be given the chance to learn and improve our business, and would receive the support that they never had.”
As part of the programme, a diagnostic analysis was carried out, which highlighted areas of the business that needed attention, and where further growth could be achieved. “It turns out that we needed work in several areas, including HR and marketing. We were assisted in setting high-level business goals, and then developing specific plans to ensure a growth trajectory for the business for years to come,” says Justin.
Tenille says another factor the programme highlighted was the crucial need for succession planning. “We want to be able to build a sustainable business that is not dependent on us. Our vision is to grow our staff into being able to take over from us should this be necessary. We won’t always be here, but the business needs to continue for decades to come.”
Jannie Rossouw, Head of Sanlam Business Market, says it is to Judante’s credit that they are seriously considering important elements such as succession planning in the business. “After all, any business should have a vision and a plan for the future. Without it, an entire generation’s hard work may be lost to a family - or the business may close down, which can affect employees and mean job losses.”
Judante now has 38 employees, four of whom have been appointed since the company was selected for the ED programme. The siblings are in the process of formalising skills development within the business, and see this as a strategic area to ensure its future sustainability.
With two brothers and their sister working together, how do they cope with the conflict which must inevitably arise with working so closely together every day? “Believe it or not, but we never fight. We sometimes have disagreements, but never to the point that we lose our connection as a family. And we see to it that we have consensus on all decisions – all three of us have to agree on something, and we will sit and work it out until we do,” says Dane.
In the day-to-day running of Judante, the three young entrepreneurs each have their own role. Justin is the operations director and senior building adviser, whereas Dane is responsible for general administration and business development. Tenille sees to it that all contracts are feasible and managed to a professional standard.
Going forward, Judante aims to diversify into new markets, and to change the way service is delivered in the building industry, by embracing modern technology. “The Sanlam-ASISA ED Programme has given us a level of confidence we didn’t have before. The programme has put a ladder in front of us, and now it is up to us to climb it,” says Dane.